Whilst at a conference this weekend I heard a quote that has really caught my interest. The quote is this: "Opinions are like armpits, every one has them and most of them stink." What a great quote that was given in the context of hearing the voice of God. Interestingly the message being given was exactly the same message I was sharing with my own congregation today.
This being the case I believe there is a real message from God in this. Over the past few weeks I have been hearing of, and experiencing first hand the criticism of others about how we do ministry. As I have reflected on the idea of hearing Gods voice it has occurred to me that both flattery and criticism often comes from the same spirit. Both are usually given in order to distract us from hearing Gods voice in an attempt to benefit the needs and desires of another.
In today’s world we are told that there is no absolute truth and that truth is relative to our circumstance and who we are. People all over the world crave the guidance of friends, spiritualists and clairvoyants in an attempt to find answers to their circumstance rather than seeking out God and asking him. There are so many voices in this world telling us what we should or should not do that we actually get distracted and lose the ability to hear Gods voice. There are many false prophets and teachers out there who will try and talk you into something that is not of God.
Criticism in ministry is certainly going to come. To be honest if we are not being criticised by somebody, then we probably should be asking ourselves whether we are hearing Gods voice correctly. I am quickly discovering that the devil will always find others to do his dirty work. Sometimes, he even uses those closest to us or those who really should know better.
Friends, we are living in dangerous times and the devil is getting nervous because he knows his time is short. If you are a Christian reading this today I want to tell you that the devil fears you because he knows that if we are focused on God; spending time in worship, praying and reading his word, it is more difficult for him to distract and use us. Satan’s main job is to distract us and prevent us from hearing the voice of God and engaging in his mission. It is so important that we get this right if we are to not only walk the path that God has planned for us but also to strengthen our faith and grow on our spiritual journey.
Spend good quality time not only in prayer but also in the reading and application of his word. 1 John 4:1 tells us “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Never ever accept anything at face value, always compare it to the word of God and if there is any difference then challenge it. Hearing Gods voice is important and it is critical to our journey with him. When we do this, we are told that we are protected by the Shepherd; that is Jesus. John 10:27-29 gives us an amazing promise when Jesus says: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” God protects his sheep and he knows who they are.
I guess after all this I have come to the conclusion that criticism can be a blessing. Why? Because it simply reinforces the fact that we are on the right track.
"7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you..."